By Joanne Heyob & Lee Peterson
The current time frame is quite possibly the biggest learning period for restaurants in history.
All restaurants are learning ways to shift their offerings when dining rooms are closed.
Some restaurants are learning what it’s like to open up after being closed for weeks or months.
Followed by restaurants learning from those that are in states opening earlier than others.
Because the future is still a bit unknown, operators should also be prepared to keep learning and adapting to new customer needs.
As restaurants quickly learn how to adapt to operating restrictions and changing consumer preferences, there are certain realities the industry faces for the foreseeable future: Pickup/Drive-thru, Delivery, and Limited Contact.
Traditional Delivery Brands Thrive
Many restaurants have had pickup, drive-thru and delivery within their repertoire, and those establishments are the ones that were able to adapt quickly when sitting down in a restaurant became restricted. Pizza chains have been able to focus their messaging on food product safety as consumers were already confident in getting their pizza quickly as they have been for years. Even veterans of the pickup and drive-thru game are facing learning opportunities, as an increase in drive-thru customers has caused extended lines and waits.
Dine-In Restaurants Temporarily Adapt
The brands that did not offer these services have come up with rudimentary solutions that are passable during the crisis, but aren’t sustainable for the long term. Picture sit-down restaurants who set up a table stacked with carryout orders outside of their doors. That’s not the best brand experience for guests, but in a learning period, restaurants can adapt and grow from that experience.
Learn and Grow for the Long Haul
In this time of learning, here are the solutions restaurant operators can use to make an impact right now and for the future:
- Create a food dispensary model. This design focuses on producing takeout/delivery meals with limited contact with the food. Brands and consumers will have a heightened focus on food safety and cleanliness. Limited contact and appropriate operations processes are key in restoring consumer confidence and trust.
- Use volume analysis to determine drive-thru needs. The drive-thru is no longer exclusive to fast food. Fast casual, full service and even fine dining establishments all apply in this new food era. Not all brands may need a drive-thru or multiple drive-thrus, but volume analysis can make the decision much more data-driven. If delivery drivers and direct customers are frequently picking up food at restaurants, drive-thrus can keep traffic and orders moving. In addition, brands can develop new ways to prep food and more advanced line queuing systems to reduce the amount of time customers have to wait in line for their food.
- Consider additional goods and services as a permanent addition. There have been several success stories of restaurants adding to their offering grocery staples, to-go mixed drinks & beer, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper. It’s safe to say we hope toilet paper doesn’t have to be a permanent addition, but brands should consider the validity of expanded services. As part of the learning curve during this time, operators have shown this flexibility and creativity has enabled them to help sustain their businesses. Use this time to test-and-learn whether customers will continue to use these new options.
At WD, we have the expertise to understand the zoning and planning necessary to add a drive-thru to a sit-down restaurant. We’ve created detailed renderings of dispensary models and can execute them from strategy to construction documents. We have the operations skills to execute volume analysis and labor assessments in order to translate restaurants’ temporary takeout tables into scalable fulfillment solutions.
Are you ready to apply industry learnings to your restaurant brand? Contact Joanne Heyob, SVP Strategy Operations & Design, at Joanne.Heyob@wdpartners.com.